The predicted anti-establishment landslide in liberal Sweden did not materialize Sunday. But the country’s political system has received a jolt of unprecedented magnitude.
While the establishment escaped the severe punishment polls had predicted, the immediate aftermath indicates Sweden — that erstwhile bastion of rock-solid political stability — has entered uncharted waters.
The country’s biggest political party, the Social Democrats, is celebrating its worst election results since 1911. The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, which became the country’s third largest party, are lamenting their best-ever results.
These odd reactions stem from the fact that polls had indicated a possible landslide for the Sweden Democrats. Instead, established parties took a new, hard-line approach on immigration — effectively stealing the Sweden Democrats’ thunder — while still focusing on the traditional welfare issues that appeal to their core voters…
For all the focus on the upcoming negotiations, the greatest upheaval is not political, but social. The election has highlighted a rift of historic proportions in Swedish society.
Almost one in five votes went to the Sweden Democrats, even though casting a ballot for the party meant taking a stand against virtually all of Sweden’s leading newspapers and traditional media. Active members of the party are even excluded from workers’ unions.